It’s no secret that one of the most common themes throughout science fiction is that of interplanetary travel or travel between different planets. This may seem far fetched to most but for some the dream that humanity may one day be able to call more than one planet home is alive and well. This dream was recently given more room to grow with a recent record breaking discovery of seven new exoplanets all around the same star, a Jupiter sized dwarf star that is part of the Aquarius constellation, about 12 parsecs or about 40 light years away from earth. This star and the seven planets orbiting form the system called TRAPPIST-1, named after the telescope that discovered it.
Though TRAPPIST-1 was actually discovered in 2016, it was only thought to have 3 exoplanets. A paper published in Nature reports that both ground and space telescopes were used to determine that at least seven (possibly more) exoplanets orbit this star. An exoplanet is simply a planet that orbits a star other than our sun. Exoplanet discoveries in themselves are not that uncommon. What makes this discovery unique is that seven temperate, or earth like planet were found around the same star, this is the first system found to have seven planets of similar size to earth. Additionally the configuration of the planets around TRAPPIST-1 allows for detailed study into the atmospheric and other properties of the planets like the densities, which have confirmed that the planets are most likely rocky in nature.
These planets all are within the temperature range that allows for liquid water, which is key to the development of life as we know it, and further study will not only revel if the planets can have water but also reveal is liquid water is present on the planet’s surface.
Though these planets are certainly out of our reach for now, this study is an important step into finding other planets suitable for human life. But who knows maybe Humanity will one day call TRAPPIST-1 home.